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Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. Nick Lane

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,870 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
How did life invent itself? Where does DNA come from? Why do we die? Over the last decades, groundbreaking new research has provided vivid insights into the makeup of life.

Drawing on this wealth of new scientific knowledge, biochemist Nick Lane reconstructs the history of life by describing the ten greatest inventions of evolution, considering how each - from DNA to sex, f
Paperback, 344 pages
Published 2010 by Profile Books Ltd. (GB) (first published 2009)
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Lois Bujold
Nov 10, 2014 Lois Bujold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Lois by: spotted in list of other-books-by

Excellent pop science writing, as absorbing as a novel (I read it in two days). The author has a knack for compelling narrative flow that seems both natural, and accumulating to some sense of Getting Somewhere by the end, always very satisfying.

Lots of new things from recent (and less recent) research that I hadn't yet heard about, which was much of what I was hoping for from this book. It also gives, in passing along the way, a good sense of how science itself evolves. Wow has biology ever adva
Mar 12, 2012 Gendou rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, biology
I had a lot of fun reading this book up until the end, when I started to worry about the author's propensity towards exaggeration and speculation.
For anyone who wants to learn about cutting edge speculation on the origin of life, Eukaryotas, and sex, it's definitely worth a read!
Anyone allergic to new-age nonsense sociology, just skip the last 9th chapter.
Everyone should take the last chapter with a very large grain of salt, because it's full of speculation, overblown claims, and other lies.

1. T
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hayes, Susanna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 17, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this to be a mixed bag. I found some chapters such as Complex Cells and Hot Blood fascinating and others such as Movement and Consciousness quite tedious. The author does a good job of reducing complex biological processes into simpler terms but I felt he used weird analogies far too often to illustrate his point. When he started comparing muscle proteins into classical music I had to roll my eyes. In addition, a few more illustrations would be useful to show some concepts.
It was nice to
Courtney Johnston
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways ...

I love Nick Lane's tone, which manages to balance wit and clarity without overusing the analogy button:

Thermodynamics is one of those words best avoided in a book with any pretence to be popular, but it's more engaging if it's seen for what it is: the science of 'desire'. The existence of atoms and molecules is dominated by 'attractions', 'repulsions', 'wants' and 'discharges', to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to write about chem
Jun 06, 2016 Sne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before reading Nick Lane I have never had interest in Biology. I didn't even watch Animal Planet. And for a month now I can't stop talking about mitochondria, DNA, evolution, etc.
His books are fascinating. I like the way he structures his statements, his sense of humor, the analogies he makes, the notions that start floating in your head. I like that he obviously likes The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy :)
Somebody here has said that he is speculating too much with unproved theories. May be bec
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

Nick Lane is a self-described evolutionary biochemist and presently Senior Lecturer in the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London. His Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution was awarded the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. He has previously published Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World and Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life. His What is Living? Why Energy Drives the Origin and Evolution of Life
Gavin Drury
Jul 14, 2012 Gavin Drury rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I think that the picture painted in this book is true. Life most surely evolved, along the lines described here. That is not dogma, but evidence tested in reality and corrected accordingly. Whether this grand picture is compatible with faith in God, I do not know. For some people, intimately acquainted with evolution, it is; for others, it is not. But whatever our beliefs, this richness of understanding should be a cause for marvel and celebration. It is a most wonderful thing to share so much ...more
Ralph Hermansen
Feb 08, 2013 Ralph Hermansen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Life Ascending" by Dr. Nick Lane is a fascinating adventure. I would not recommend it to you as your first book on evolution and probably not as your second or third. However, if you have read enough to somewhat appreciate the role of DNA and genes in evolutionary science, then you will find this book very worth reading. The author is a biochemist and he looks at evolution through a biochemist's eyes. He stops short of introducing structural formulas of organic compounds and focuses more on des ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Maurice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And how did consiousness rise from lifeless matter? His chapter about consciousness has some interesting things to say about that. With that I mean that is has become possible to observe the brain working, seeing specialised regions at work in the brain.
They see how the brain - while the person looks at an object- has 30 to 60 regions of specialised neurons firing. They only fire when their litle aspect is recognised.
E.g. we have neurons specialised in firing only when an object moves from left
Jan 29, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life Ascending, winner of the 2010 Royal Society prize for popular science books, is one of the greatest of all time. The OEDB list of greatest popular science books is out of date. This is science on the cutting edge, championing theories that have been gaining attention slowly in recent years, among those interested in biology but not in the mass media. Techniques, equipment and insights started with the Human Genome Project, plus the ability to see and model ever tinier structures, have led t ...more
Ben McFarland
Oct 08, 2013 Ben McFarland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Nick Lane and I already know I'm going to read more. Lane approaches scientific controversy with a light hand, but he talks about the real issues and the real science going on. Lane is a practicing biochemist who writes popular science, and it shows. This book is framed around 10 "innovations" evolved by life: all the way from the origin of life to mitochondria to consciousness and death. A lot of the general issues I've become familiar with from the scientifi ...more
Harry Rutherford
Jan 15, 2011 Harry Rutherford rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The ten ‘inventions’ are: The origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death. Lane explains how each of these work and how they evolved, at least as far as current knowledge can take us — which in some cases, like the origin of life, is apparently rather further than I had realised. The consciousness chapter, if you’re wondering, was rather less persuasive.

What sets this book apart from most popular accounts of evolution is that Ni
Ioannis Savvas
Feb 14, 2013 Ioannis Savvas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: Βιολογία
Ο Nick Lane είναι βιοχημικός και το βιβλίο του Life Ascending κέρδισε το Royal Society Prize for Science Books για το 2010. Διαβάζοντας πρόσφατα ένα φρικτό βιβλίο εκλαϊκευμένης επιστήμης, η σύγκριση είναι αναπόφευκτη. Ο Nick Lane συνθέτει μια συμφωνία επιστημονικών δεδομένων για να παρουσιάσει ένα καταπληκτικό μουσικό έργο με πρωταγωνιστή την Εξέλιξη. Ο συγγραφέας επιλέγει τις δέκα σημαντικότερες «εφευρέσεις» της Εξέλιξης και συνθέτει δέκα κεφάλαια κλιμακωτά. Βήμα-βήμα ανεβαίνει την εξελικτική π ...more
Todd Martin
In “Life Ascending” Nick Lane discusses in what his opinion are the ten most important developments in evolutionary history. They are:
1. The origin of life.
2. DNA
3. Photosynthesis
4. The complex cell
5. Sex
6. Movement
7. Sight
8. Hot blood
9. Consciousness
10. Death
In each section Lane discusses what we know about the topic, then moves into more speculative and cutting edge research. He does a good job explaining the basics, but does not provide enough information to carry the reader through the end
Cassandra Kay Silva
Aug 18, 2012 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
The details in this book are fascinating! Lots of fun speculation interwoven with intricate descriptions of various facets of living organisms on an almost chemical/cellular level. This makes it very distinct from other books on evolution as the author literally picks his random top favorite topics and just starts discussing. I listed to this on auido and it kind of felt like a podcast in the manner it was presented. It was really fun and I liked the reader a lot. This is a great one to throw on ...more
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
This was one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure to read. If you like a book that delves deep into every tiny detail, this is the book for you. If things like ATP, leaky mitochondria, bacteria that can live in strange conditions, how DNA was discovered (and how Crick thought aliens put it on Earth), you will enjoy Lane's wonderful adventure of how life came to be. The science in this book was outstanding.
Lola White

الكاتب يتحدث عن أهم العمليات أو (إختراعات) التي نتجت عن التطور, و الكيفية التي تنتقل فيها الحياة من الاشكال البدائية إلى الأكثر تعقيداً و تطوّراً.
الكتاب مليء بمعلومات شيقّة و بعضها غريب و ربما غير معروف كثيراً كالمعلومات الواردة في الفصل الذي يتحدث عن الرؤية.
الكتاب ليس سهلاً و يفترض أن يكون القارىء ملمّلاً و قارئاً بما يتعلق باساسيات التطوّر على اقلّ تقدير.
Abdo Hamdy
Oct 02, 2015 Abdo Hamdy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such an eye opening book..Fascinating
Ken Kaufman
Jul 02, 2016 Ken Kaufman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind-expanding. Gives a full banquet of food for thought.
Bill Leach
Jul 04, 2015 Bill Leach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has much more content than the title would suggest. The ten inventions are examined in detail from an evolutionary perspective, providing the latest knowledge and current theories as to how and when each evolved. Super engaging.

Chapter 1 - The Origin of Life

It appears that life started in the alkaline sea floor vents where seawater reacts with newly exposed rocks, creating the mineral serpentine. A steady supply of hydrogen reacts with carbon dioxide to form organic molecules (reverse
Sajith Kumar
Jan 11, 2016 Sajith Kumar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious readers
Shelves: popular-science
This book showcases a chemist’s eye view of evolution, thereby affording another perspective to the charming story of life. In a survey of the history of life on earth, the author comes out with ten events, or rather inventions in his parlance, that thoroughly changed the course of life and diverted it into the highway leading to complex organisms like mammals and men. Development of the complex cell, sight, power of movement and sex constitute a few of the characteristics identified by the auth ...more
Chip Hunter
Dec 29, 2016 Chip Hunter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book based on the recommendation of the Royal Society (Best science book of 2009). Absolutely full of interesting tidbits and little-known facts pertaining to the evolution of life, from bacteria to humans, LIFE ASCENDING is sure to please the curious and will provide many impressive conversation pieces. It is a great resource for those wishing to expand their knowledge on the fascinating topic of evolution, and science junkies will devour it in no time. A word of caution, howev ...more
Dec 29, 2016 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In spite of the author's assurance that this book is for the common reader, it's not. You really should know a little biology, a little physiology, a little neuroscience to follow along. However, the book is not without its charms.

Lane has broken life down into "inventions" - I forget why he calls them that - which are basically organizational steps life has gone through that made a vital difference. Things like eyes, movement, photosynthesis and on. He devotes a chapter to each of these "invent
Dec 16, 2016 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One can study the biochemistry of photosynthesis in some detail and be unaware of the different pathways that exist and existed in different organisms, of its effect on the color of the sky, of its effect on the structural components of large plants and animals, and of the peculiarities of its evolutionary origin. Nick Lane gives a brilliant overview of the nature, significance and origin of the 10 greatest inventions of evolution including, the origin of life itself, DNA, photosynthesis, the eu ...more
Jan 17, 2011 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fact
I don't envy authors who choose to write about biology. Of all the sciences, it lacks the rules and models that make chemistry and physics so enticing. In those subjects, we have the dance of planets generated from the simple inverse square law of gravity, the solved mystery of wave-particle duality, the puzzle pieces of have-electrons need-electrons chemical bonds. But in all those cases, we know what's going on and why--there are rules, there's a reason goddamnit.

And then there's biology. Biol
Artem Huletski
Dec 18, 2016 Artem Huletski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Из этой книги можно узнать, чем мы отличаемся от растений и ископаемых ящеров, но самая неожиданная идея для меня - рассматривать смерть как одно из изобретений эволюции. Хорошая компоновка материала.
Lee Labuschagne
Nov 30, 2016 Lee Labuschagne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. One of the best popular science books you will ever read. Beautifully written with humour, insight and an ability to make even very complex topics interesting for the non-specialist
Eugene Agafonov
I was listening to the Audible version and somehow it felt boring even when the content seemed pretty interesting.
Probably it's an issue with audio version and reading might be different.
Dec 03, 2016 Stephan rated it it was amazing
Very compelling. The first two chapters are among the best non-fiction I have ever read. It does not quite keep that level, but it remains very very good.
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Science of evolution 1 30 Jan 20, 2010 08:55AM  
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  • Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth
  • Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth
  • The Counter-Creationism Handbook
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
  • What Evolution Is
  • Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution
  • Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction
  • Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators
  • Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution
  • Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life
Dr Nick Lane is a British biochemist and writer. He was awarded the first Provost's Venture Research Prize in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, where he is now a Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry. Dr Lane’s research deals with evolutionary biochemistry and bioenergetics, focusing on the origin of life and the evolution of complex cells. Dr Lane w ...more
More about Nick Lane...

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